By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Senate President Robert Stivers asked for an attorney general’s opinion Monday on whether Kentucky counties can adopt so-called ‘right-to-work’ provisions that let employees work in unionized businesses without joining the union or paying dues.
Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said in a news release that he is seeking the opinion from Attorney General Jack Conway because Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell recently opined that the Louisville Metro Government has the authority to require a higher minimum wage than the minimum wage established by federal or state law.
“Using Mr. O’Connell’s analysis, a county should also be able to establish itself as a right-to-work county,” said Stivers.
The Senate leader noted that he sought the request as legislators prepare for the 2015 General Assembly that begins in January. Republicans in the state Senate have pushed the issue for years, but House Democrats oppose the measure.
Many Republicans say such a state law is needed to spur economic development while many Democrats argue it would lower wages by weakening unions.
A recent Bluegrass Poll found that 55 percent of Kentuckians favor changing state laws to allow people to work in businesses that have unions without joining the union or paying union dues. Twenty-eight percent of those polled were opposed.
Stivers said the issue “will be of continuing interest to localities that are looking for innovative ways to attract new businesses.”
He noted that 24 states have enacted “right-to-work” laws that are not pre-empted by federal law.
Stivers was not immediately available to take questions about his request. O’Connell, a Democrat, was not immediately available for comment.
Conway spokeswoman Allison Gardner Martin, said the attorney general’s office will review Stivers’ request.